European Cervical Cancer Prevention Week runs from 25-31 January and the Public Health Agency (PHA) has produced a new video that shows women what to expect when they attend for a smear test.
Dr Tracy Owen, Quality Assurance Director for the Northern Ireland Cervical Screening Programme at the PHA, said: “Many women will feel nervous about going for their smear test, especially if it is their first time. They may be worried about the actual process of having the test, as well as the results. These worries can put some women off attending at all.
“This video shows women how simple the process is, and will hopefully reassure them that it is not something to be too anxious about.”
The video covers the whole process of screening – from receiving the invitation letter to getting the results. The video is aimed at women who have been invited for the first time and those who have never had a smear test.
Women are invited to make an appointment with their GP practice for a smear test from the age of 25. There are 483,000 women in Northern Ireland who are eligible to participate in the cervical screening programme, and 77% of these have had a smear test in the last five years.
Screening aims to prevent cervical cancer by detecting minor changes in the cells that line the cervix which may later develop into cancer if not treated. Nine out of every ten smear tests have a normal result. Abnormal changes are still unlikely to be cancer and are usually treated at an outpatient appointment.
Dr Owen continued: “The best way for women to help protect themselves from cervical cancer is to have regular smear tests. I would encourage young women receiving their first invite to make an appointment with their GP practice and not to put it off to a later date. It only takes a few minutes to have a smear test, but early detection and treatment of abnormal changes is effective and can save lives.
“Women who have had the HPV vaccine also need to attend for screening as the vaccine will only offer protection against 70% of cervical cancers. It is also important for women of any age who develop symptoms, such as a discharge or abnormal bleeding, to discuss these with their GP and not to wait until their next screening test is due.
“Currently 77% of Northern Ireland women attend for screening and although this is good there is still room for improvement. We hope this new video will encourage women to attend for their first smear test.”